Wednesday, 25 April, 2007

Pratibha and Nabanita

“May is (gap) speak to (gap) ...Pratibha Chatterjee?” “May is (gap) speak to (gap) Na-ban-nita Chodry?” And these are pardonable ones.

...Now pabitra is a common word. Even the smallest vocabularies contain it. It occurs in all Indian languages, and is pronounced in the same way in all of them. (Bengalis pronounce it as pobitro, but that’s a minor point.) Admittedly, it is not a common first name.

While Nabanita is quite popular in Bengal as a feminine first name, I am yet to come across a non-Bengali with this name. On the other hand, its masculine version, Navneet, is hardly rare outside Bengal. In fact Navneet Publications dominates the guide book business in Central India.

So why do tele-callers mispronounce these two simple words.

I have several hypotheses, all of which are probably true:

1. The brand is incredibly sharp. This is a sales tactic. By mispronouncing the consumer’s name, the brand, though its representative, the tele-caller, signals, right at the beginning of the conversation, who is the boss.

2. The brand is insufferably stupid. To a consumer, his name, not Coca-Cola’s is the world’s most valuable brand. But the brand doesn’t understand this simple thing.

3. The brand is impossibly ignorant. Basic stats can help rank prospects, prioritise calls, and humanise the load on tele-callers, so that they can, as a minimum, read the suspect’s names in their heads before calling him. And this is not just about improving manners; it may improve efficiency and conversions too.

Unfortunately, the brand and its church measure work in exertion, not results. So they must shackle tele-callers to call quotas, and whip them with auto-calling software. It’s not very different, basically, from judging a bowler purely by balls bowled, assuming that it has a very simple and sure correlation with wickets taken ("All it takes is hard work").

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